How to improve your chances of securing that all important funding?

Michael Fuller, head of business affairs at AIM Startups, reveals his five pitching tips to help inventors get funding for their idea or start-up business.
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Securing funds for a creative business can be difficult as:

  • Traditionally many investors can be quite sceptical about the business acumen of creatives.
  • They have difficulty in visualising the commercial potential of a creative invention or idea.

There is, of course, no way of guaranteeing that a funding application will be successful, but there are a number of strategies that you could adopt to help improve your chances of success.

1. Eligibility criteria

It goes without saying that the first thing you should do is check to see that you are eligible to receive support for the grant or fund that you are applying for.

This means not only that you satisfy the general criteria such as the type of organisation that is permitted to apply, meeting closing dates etc, but also that your business activities and goals matches up with any stated outcomes that the funder may have.

However, you shouldn’t just skew your business idea simply to meet the stated criteria. You should have a clear perspective on how to evaluate your business and know what success looks like highlighting the areas that match the desired outcomes of the funding body. So, do your research.

2. Presenting your idea

Set out your idea out in a clear, concise and coherent way. You want to illustrate that your idea is unique and innovative and is something that will engage and create excitement in potential funders, and encourage them to want to support your idea ahead of anybody else’s. 

However, it’s important that readers of the application can easily understand your proposal without having to wade through an overly technical application in which it is difficult to ascertain the basic concepts of your idea. Make sure that you clearly explain the meaning of any technical terms. Include a breakdown of the progress you have made to date and set out what needs to happen to take the project to the next level.

3. Management

You should state who in the business will be responsible for management of the business and in particular who will oversee A) creative and design decisions, B) business affairs matters, and C) marketing and promotional campaigns. 

The funders are investing in individuals just as much as they are supporting the creative idea, and they will want to be confident that the business has the best qualified people in place with the requisite experience to operate the business and maximise the chances of achieving success.

4. Financials

You should make it clear why your creative business venture needs funding and how you intend to use the money. Businesses can require financing for a variety of reasons. For example, start-ups may want to purchase new equipment, pay for marketing or lease commercial property. Alternatively, an existing business may want to ramp up production to expand the business by hiring extra staff or finance a large new order which requires bridging funds.

Investors may be reluctant to finance startups if an enterprise does not have many existing customers and it is in a highly competitive sector. So, it is important that your financial forecasts are credible and accurate and you should provide as much supportive documentation (Eg. prospective orders, quotes etc) as possible in order to back up your projections. Funders will want to be confident that your project will adequately funded to enable it to achieve its goals.

5. Finalising the application

There are a number of ways in which you can improve the quality of your bid. Try taking a break from your application and then revisiting it with a fresh mind to make a second or even third draft before submitting it.

It can also be very helpful to have your funding application reviewed by an impartial third party. There is a definite craft to writing a successful bid application and it might be useful to commission the services of an independent specialist who is used to submitting funding bids to make a completely objective assessment of your application.

There are many organisations (many are sector specific specialists) that can review funding bids and make suggestions on how applications can be improved, including:

Before hiring a bid review company, research them thoroughly to make sure that they are appropriate for your needs, and have a working knowledge of the fund that you are seeking to access funding from.

Fuller will be presenting 'A Beginner's Guide to Funding' at this year's Inventors Workshop. Check out this year's conference programme here, and to book tickets, click here.

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